Hammerford Academy

The only school of Hammersmith, London  took great pride in being the best one in the area. Its dramatic surroundings, the lush-green campus, the Spectacular Regency architecture and most importantly- its teachers. The crooked nosed teachers! All of them specially trained and exceptionally skilled in killing children’s imagination and making them a programmed robo.  You’re most welcome! They wailed and wailed and did not shut up until every innocent life within their boundaries had mugged up the whole text book and vomited it out during the examinations.

You’ll realize the striking contradiction between the outsides of the building that displayed a dreamy, exquisite makeup perfectly complimenting its singular location and its insides- equally dull and draining the minute you step inside the main doors. You’ll be first welcomed with the strangest aura determined to shut your creative brain and then by the stingy smell of toxic perfection. True to their  emblem Perfection is our pride, The school did put a lot of stress on shining shoes that required a heavy dose of polish and  newly printed text books that had to be bought every now and then. No old-torn, written -in books allowed. I guess that by now your nostrils would’ve been be flooded with the fresh wall paint and recently done furnish that never seem to cease throughout the year; filling the alleyways that always reek of sadistic newness. Keep walking and you’d come across the T-section corridor in the middle of which, as you’d must be able to see is the Big Board of Performance standing in its full-intimidating height.

If you want to hide your real test scores from your friends, then I’d advice you to find a different school. Here, your dirty laundry is aired in the middle of the hallway, no choice! The names kept changing except the last one, the one name that had been there since it joined the school – Caleppy Grace. A rosy face with blond  shoulder length pony tail.

                         Chapter 1  

                 The Talking Gnome 

She is consistently at the end of ha class”  Growled Mr. Grace in his heavy accent .  “What da ya think will become of ha after she graduates.? wot does she thins she’s doin wid ha loife?”  The shouts echoed through the walls of their Edwardian home and the picture frames hung above the staircase shuddered a little.  “Give it a rest Dave! she’s just twelve”  Said Mrs Grace plucking a tissue and wiping his spit droplets off their family photo that displayed four people and their four legged friend, who was busy licking ice cream off the youngest one. “Give it a rest? Cecelia dear, do ya want me to be ashamed of my stupid doter in front of ol our relatives? we’re a family of superior intellect” snarled Dave, his nose flaring and disgust reflecting in his eyes. “Tell her dat I wont her at dee top of ha class dis eer“. He put his glass of half-drunken juice back on the dinning table with a thud. The remaining juice splashed and jumped but did not make it out of the brim while Mr. Grace struggled to take his fat bottom off the chair, his hands, straightening the knot of his tie. “Now don make dat face, gimme a kiss darlin and tell sammy that daddy is proud ‘o him, look at dat boy eh! fourth grader winning against the sixth grade debate team, Ma’boy, truely his daddy’s boy! ‘ he said wiping juice remains from his mustache with the the back of his enormous hand. Mrs. Grace frowned and kissed her husband good bye after re-doing his tie with her meticulous fingers. 

The hardwood stairs creaked as she made her way upstairs, passing through a long line of photographs, that seemed to be keeping the record as their family grew and progressed. A skinny man and his frail,white -veiled  bride kissing at the church. The same skinny man touching a man-sized trophy, beside him, the frail women flaunting her baby bump. The next one showed the couple with a girl and a pup. The lady, now chubby wearing a medal with a little girl in her lap smiling brightly; the man with a baby boy,  and at the top of the stair case hung the latest one- the couple with their kids in their front porch, the baby boy holding a trophy sitting on his fat father’s bulky shoulders, his mother pulling his cheeks with her plump hands and his blond sister beaming at him standing near her mother’s legs. Both the kids appeared rather skinny as compared to their well-built, fluffy parents.She knocked on the first door on the right with a closed fist “Cally, time to wake up dear” she called in a loud voice and went inside the next door without knocking, to wake up her son.

At the other side of the door, a blond head peaked outside her blanket with squinted eyes then went quickly back in. For some reason Caleppy loved the warm-dark embrace of her blanket where she could seek comfort and silence except for the crackling sound of the fire that not only filled the warm room but also managed to crawl inside the layers of her hefty sheets. The blanket too, seemed to love protecting her from the icy- cold world outside. While still in the transition period between wakefulness and sleep, she finally put her head out and looked at the foot of her bed where lay a large but empty straw basket just a few inches from the fireplace. The ruffled blankets and the fallen silk cushion suggested that its occupant was already awake and had vacated the spot. At that very moment, the door opened, casting a shadow stretching from the foot of the door  to the cusp of her bed and a silent friend came running licking her all over the face.

You are up early aren’t you?” She asked while stroking the furred head. A ‘woof-woof‘ replied and settled beside her pointing its tail at the window where her uniform hung like a lifeless body. “Yeah, I knooww” she said yawning “Wish I could just skip it one day“. Floopy replied with a soft bark and looked at her excitedly as she made her way out of the bed. The hard wood floor was rather warm and did not bite the baby skin of her feet. Taking out the uniform she pulled the curtains aside and gasped at the view outside . Floopy came running wagging his tail putting both of his front legs up the window pane and both peaked in awe at the thick snow that had covered every bit of land and trees as far as their eyes could reach. The earth seemed to be drenched in sparkling white paint with droplets still falling from the grey, sunless canvas that stretched above in its infinite vastness .”Floopy look at thaaat” Caleppy said in an amazed voice. ‘Vow-vow‘ Floopy complimented her amazement.

The room filled with the aroma of melted cocoa as her mother emerged from the hallway holding a steaming hot cup in her hands. “Good morning sweetheart, slept well?” She asked smiling. “Mommy look at the snoww, can I stay today and play,pleaasee?” Caleppy pleaded. Mrs. Grace threw a confused expression before finally nodding and pulling a nervous smile. The Siberian Husky jumped and circled Mrs. Grace in a thank -you gesture then ran downstairs and came back up within a few minutes holding a pair of boots between its teeth. The wolf-like dog that scared new visitors with its keen,deadly gaze enjoyed like a toddler among its known ones.

Floopy and Caleppy stepped outside and made their way through the snow covered porch. Her mother’s  voice asking her not to wander off too far fading away in the distance. The atmosphere was freezing and the plain scent of snow filled the air like they had stepped into a giant refrigerator. The fresh snow cover felt soft and fluffy beneath her boots as she dipped them completely in the snowy layers marching towards the front gate and pushed it open. But the gate, like her boots, was stuck in the snow and did not move. “I wonder how daddy did it” Caleppy said to Floopy who was sticking its tongue out and panting in excitement.  “Looks like we ain’t going out“, said Caleppy , her smile fading and the flesh covering her cheek bones falling in disappointment . Floppy, on the other hand, still excited made its way towards the back lawn of their home. Its paws scattering the piled up snow as it struggled to run faster. Caleppy followed and saw it standing near the wooden fence of the back lawn wagging it’s tail rather rapidly. On going nearer, she noticed the absent earth near the fence which was covered with a piece of trampoline, probably to protect it from snow and the trampoline seemed to have done its job. The hole was still intact.”So that’s how you go wandering off even after the dark” said Caleppy squinting at her dog. Floopy barked in approval and slid under the fence to the other side. Caleppy looked up the house once to check if they were being watched then she too, slid her skinny body  down the fence.

First her pony tail, then her little rosy face came out and saw Floopy waiting for her. She turned her head to admire the breath-taking view before crawling out completely and dusting the the snow off her jacket and hairs. “So, where do you want to go first?” she smirked and both of them hurried away to the play in the snow that seemed to cover every inch of the land in the world. 

After Running for thirty good minutes, Caleppy stopped and bent down clasping her knees- panting. Floopy stopped too, but instead of just standing there, it started rolling in the snow, enjoying its play time to the fullest. “That looks like fun, wait for me” She called and began to run again but tripped over a cone and fell crashing down, sliding in the snow few meters forward. Floopy stopped rolling and stood straight, looking alert! “ooww what was that” Caleppy groaned while massaging her head. Suddenly she looked around and realized that she didn’t reckon the area as one of her neighborhoods and then  looked at the tip of the cone that she had tripped over which was stuck in the snow, now writhing and struggling to raise. Floopy went over quickly and started digging on the snow with its paws.’Floopy waait” called Caleppy but it was too late, the cone was now raising on its own and Floopy had stepped backwards barking continuously.

Caleppy watched in horror as after the cone came out a tiny forehead, big elephant-like ears and two large sparkling eyes that blinked at her. Caleppy screamed and started to run but slipped again and fell down on the snow. The strange figure was now pulling itself out with its little long hands and finally managed to pull its body-hardly twelve inches long completely out. “wha-whaa-what- arrre you?” whispered Caleppy wide eyed, here voice trembling with fear. “I am Rambocus” said the creature in a gruffy voice that did not match his little body and the cartoon -like appearance, shaking snow off his cone hat.

To be contd…

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Supriya Patnaik

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